“I feel like my personal life and my career are in sync, and I think that’s because I’m in a good place”
Jennifer Lopez is once again proving that she is fearless when it comes to her life and work. The prospect of playing a pole dancer would be daunting for many actresses, given the level of exposure and the sheer physical demands of looking credible in the role. But JLo, judging by her March Instagram post of herself in a bright pink bikini which highlights her astoundingly sculpted abs with a caption that reads “I’m a hustler, baby…”, has definitely lived up to the challenge.
The post was an advance taste of what lies in store for audiences when her new film, Hustlers, opens in mid-September. Lopez plays Ramona, the ambitious ringleader of a group of elite strippers who get tired of being exploited and decide to systematically drug and rob their wealthy and obnoxious Wall Street customers. Based on a true story that was described in a December 2015 New York magazine article, the film also co-stars Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Cardi B, the pop star who previously worked as a stripper. Julia Stiles plays Jessica Pressler, the writer who broke the story.
Lopez spent several months working with a Cirque du Soleil trainer in order to perfect her technique and has the highest respect for the physical capabilities of pole dancers, declaring: “It’s very hard! I have bruises everywhere. I have a lot of respect for people who do the pole. It’s like acrobatic, it’s different muscle groups and the things that they can do with their legs and go upside down – I’m like, what? It’s hard.”
The movie comes out just as JLo turned 50 in July and has been performing on stage as part of her ‘It’s My Party’ tour. Recently, her latest album “Medicine”, which also features the vocals of fellow Bronx native, French Montana, earned JLo her 17th No. 1 Dance Club Songs ranking on Billboard.
This summer, on the occasion of her 50th birthday, Lopez admitted that she is in a very happy place in her life: “There’s so much happiness and so much contentment in my life right now with all my kids, my relationship and you saw those fans out there, my work, my producing, my acting – it’s a great time…”
“I’ve always had great moments in my life and I’ve had hard times but there’s times when my career was going awesome. There were times when my personal life was going good, but they never coincided. I never had both at the same time and right now in my life, I feel like my personal life and my career are in sync, and I think that’s because I’m in a good place. It took me a long time to find that balance, to find that self love, to find that thing that makes you feel complete. And I think we’re finally there.”
Jennifer, how did you approach playing a pole dancer in Hustlers?
JENNIFER LOPEZ: This is a whole other level playing this character, it’s scary for me! It’s a whole other thing exposing yourself like that….[but] I take my acting seriously and we’re delving into a different world. It’s a serious movie based on kind of a true story.
I had to explore the lives of women in that world, what they go through, the mentality of someone who did that for a living, although I have no judgement on that, I should say.
How do you mean, not making judgement?
JLO: There’s no shame in doing what you do and what your path is in order to get you to where you want to be. You have to do “you”, and understanding that and getting into this world made me want to understand it and want to see a different side of it.
We think we know what everyone else’s life feels like but we don’t. It was interesting to see that world from their perspective and not from a male perspective.
You were apparently instrumental in bringing Cardi B aboard the film?
JLO: I spoke to Cardi B before the movie was made and I helped bring her onto the project. I called her and asked her whether she wanted to do the movie. We had done songs together and she knew so much about this world already, so it hit home for her. I said to her that this would be a great thing for you to be involved with.
What was Cardi B’s reaction to your invitation to work on Hustlers?
JLO: She told me that she had been really picky about the movie offers she had been getting but she said that she felt that she would have something to offer to this movie. She also told me that she would like to talk to me about what it was really like being part of that life.
“There’s so much happiness and so much contentment in my life right now. “
You recently played in another film, Second Act, about a woman taking charge of her life and succeeding in the corporate world. Is it the case that people just need that one break to be able to succeed?
JLO: Yes. Maya is an underdog and she just needed that one shot at showing how smart and capable she is in a good job that rewards her intelligence and work ethic. She also needed that job to be able to start believing in herself again and that’s something I really identified with, looking back at my own life.
At one point in my career after I had had some success I suddenly saw a lot of criticism being thrown my way and it made me start to doubt myself. There was all this talk that I wasn’t really an actress, that I wasn’t really a singer, and after a while that stuff starts to wear you down. I’m very sensitive and it was hard for me to avoid focusing on the negative things that were out there instead of looking at the positive. You lose faith in yourself.
How did you turn things around and get your own singing and acting career back on track?
JLO: I told myself that there was no way I was going to let myself become a victim of that. I just decided that I was going to work even harder, make more records, make more movies, and keep on doing what I love and what I knew I was good at no matter what talk there was out there.
So I started believing in myself again. And with the love and support of my family, friends, and fans, I’ve found the drive to be able to go out there and prove myself again,
You also went through a difficult time on an even more personal level following your divorce?
JLO: I had waited a long time to have kids and then suddenly I had two young twins and I was getting divorced. I had to do a lot of self-reflection about what I was going through, why I wasn’t happy in my life, and what I needed to do about it.
Not only did I have to figure out why I was letting all the negativity affect me so badly, I also saw that I had to stop thinking that other people were responsible for my happiness. It was up to me to rely on myself and love myself first in order to be happy. That’s what I needed to do so I would feel more confident about myself, have faith in myself, and that would enable me to be a more open person so that I would be able to meet someone and feel good about sharing my life with someone else.
Do you still believe that you will one day be married again?
JLO: I think I’ve understood that marriage takes a lot more than just falling in love and sharing a home together. In my case, my first responsibility is my children and making sure as a mother I’m creating the best possible home for them. That means you need someone who not only understands you but understands children and is willing to love them as much as you do. But I’m hopeful of being able to spend the rest of my life with someone and being committed in that way to each other.
Do you feel that women in the age of the #MeToo movement are finally hitting their stride and finding empowerment?
JLO: Women don’t have an expiration date and that we can’t be dismissed because we’re in our forties or fifties or whatever. Women are discovering how much strength we have now and that women, especially those of my generation, are now more determined than ever to assert ourselves and make our mark in the world.
You’re often hailed for having retained a very youthful and fit look even as you’re hitting 50. Any secrets you can share?
JLO: (Laughs) I’ve always taken pretty good care of myself and I think that a lot of that has helped. I make sure I do intensive workouts at least three or four days a week, not because I’m in love with training but because I can see the results and I feel a lot better when I’m in shape. I also needed to train very hard while I’ve been doing my Las Vegas shows because I had to be extra fit to get through each performance and perform at the level I wanted to.
You have to go all out to do those shows. It’s like you’re a boxer training for a fight. But it really pays off and as you get older it’s even more important to put in the extra hours of training to keep your body toned.
I started out as a dancer, and I remember whenever I arrived at the gym in the morning I would spend as many hours as I could there. I would train until the point of exhaustion. So I have the mentality to be able to push myself pretty hard.
You’ve always stated that you have a fierce work ethic. Where do you get that drive and determination from?
JLO: My mother and grandmother have been great role models for me. My mom was the one who taught me that if you work hard in life then you can achieve your dreams. My mom and dad both worked different jobs so we could have a better life and I really appreciated how they accepted their responsibilities and never complained. You learn that if you want to be successful at anything you’re going to have to work for it. No one is going to give it to you.
My mom gave me all her support when I was starting out (in show business) but she also told me that she didn’t want to hear me crying or complaining about my choice to be a performer. She also impressed upon me the need to be very independent and learn to take care of yourself. She helped me to believe in myself. So all those things have been important in helping me succeed and accomplish things I always dreamed of doing.